EV technology evolves to support global battery demand, and costs reduction
- Expectation for world battery demand forecast to be on track to exceed 2,900 GWh by 2030, with the UK still set to exceed 90 GWh
- BEV production in both UK and Europe revised marginally downwards, due to project and production delays as a result of economic uncertainty and supply chain issues
- A desire for cheaper vehicles sees the transition to fully electric vehicles slowing down
- Silicon carbide identified as a solution to help reduce battery size, meet demand, and overall vehicle cost
Analysis from the latest Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC) quarterly demand report highlights industry innovation to address lithium shortage and details the impact the economic climate will have on automotive production and demand globally, in Europe and in the UK.
Demand for battery electric vehicles may be reduced, in the short term, due to uncertainty in global economic markets.
It is still expected that there will be requirements for 23GWh of UK capacity and an additional pull from consumers for more affordable vehicles. This could include smaller batteries and PHEVs, as consumers feel the financial strain of the economic downturn.
In the last quarter’s APC Automotive industry demand forecast, the potential lithium deficit in 2030 was analysed and alternative powertrain adoption scenarios were considered as ways of reducing lithium demand.
In the latest report, the focus is on the opportunity to use silicon carbide, a chemical compound commonly found in power electronics, to reduce the battery pack size of an EV and therefore the amount of lithium needed.
Dr Chris Jones, Strategic Trends Manager at the APC, said:
“There are many levers that can be pulled to address the lithium shortage and in our Q3 demand report we focus specifically on the opportunity silicon carbide poses. Switching from silicon to silicon carbide-based power electronics could offer an efficiency gain of approximately 10 per cent. This means you can potentially drive further with the same size battery in your EV. For example, a family car like a VW ID.5 could increase its range from around 270 miles to 300 miles. Alternatively, if 270 miles is adequate, the efficiency gains of silicon carbide power electronics would also allow you to reduce the size of the battery significantly. Given EV batteries are expected by many to get bigger and bigger, despite significant improvements in energy density, introducing silicon carbide could be a solution to counteract this.
“Reducing battery pack size has the added benefit of bringing down the overall vehicle cost. The economic downturn will continue to have an impact on vehicle demand and production, so a focus on overall cost reduction is essential.”
As UK automotive OEMs look to introduce silicon carbide, it raises the question as to where it will come from. Currently, the UK vehicle manufacturers would turn to the established supply chains in the US or China. However, the US is likely to prioritise supply to US-based OEMs, meaning onshoring the power electronics supply chain is another key area that the UK needs to concentrate on and will be a focus for future APC reports.
There are already developed pockets of innovation that could kick-start a more localised supply chain. ‘Escape’ and ‘Future BEV’ are two APC collaborative R&D projects that are developing silicon carbide inverters. Escape, a £19 million project led by McLaren, and Future BEV, a £30 million project led by BMW, are both set to lead to opportunities to build an end-to-end UK supply chain for power electronics with a real-world solution at the core.
Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh, Head of Technology Trends at the APC, added:
“Silicon carbide has great benefits for pack size reduction and efficiency gains, and is advanced enough for integration, meaning OEMs can act now to incorporate it into their inverters. There are some great projects assessing the integration of silicon carbide and the automotive industry needs to take note of the outcomes of these. The expected shortage of lithium and reduction in costs both need addressing if we are to weather the current tough economic and geopolitical climates.
“Forecasts for vehicle production over the next eight years are uncertain given the current economic climate and we expect to see a reduction of 1 million vehicles manufactured in Europe in 2030 compared to the figure forecast last quarter. There is no magic wand. We must work hard now to apply innovations to real-world scenarios, build and invest in the UK supply chain to support the electric vehicle manufacturing industry.”
The APC is the organisation tasked by the UK government and automotive industry to accelerate the transition to low-carbon transport solutions. They use their unique insight, gained from working closely with the global automotive industry to provide insight and forecasting to support government with strategic policy decisions and also to provide clarity to the industry about the projected demand, product and technology roadmaps.
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